Comments from Past Winners and Finalists

Barton & Nukuhia Hadfield – Mangaroa Station
We  encourage owner/operators to enter the Ahuwhenua Competition. Perceived to be the domain of Trusts and Incorporations our success in 2015 proved that individuals can be just as competitive. We found entering the competition had huge benefits for our business, whanau and our community. 
Being able to have our business benchmarked and having received feedback from the judges has not only allowed us to reflect on our past goals and achievements, but also plan for the future. We found the whole experience to be very positive, though daunting at the start the support provided by the organising committee was outstanding and ensures that each entrant receives the support to be able to present their enterprise in the best possible way. Being a part of the Ahuwhenua has been a highlight of our farming career.

Dion Maaka, Chairman of Te Rua o Te Moko,  winner of the 2014 dairy competition says Te Rua o te Moko Ltd benefited significantly from entering the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition. It provided a complete and thorough examination of our business, resulting in meaningful changes to how we operated our business. Any future competitor needs to understand that only positive outcomes can result  from participating in the Ahuwhenua Trophy.

Kingi Smiler, Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee since 2007 and Chairman of Wairarapa Moana Incorporation, winner in 2005, is urging individuals, trusts and incorporations to enter the 2015 sheep and beef competition. He says while it is great that one farm will eventually win the competition there are huge benefits in just entering and hopefully being a finalist.

"What previous entrants and finalists have told us is that the experience of just entering has been hugely beneficial to them. The fact that the judges who are specialist rural professionals are able to give feedback and ideas which were never looked at before can help make a difference. Just having some professional benchmarking done can spark new initiatives which can make a difference is a really positive outcome," he says.

Kingi Smiler says he understand why some people won't enter the competition unless they think they have a real chance of winning, but he there is another side to that perspective. "I look at the Young Farmer of the Year competition and I often see the same names appear year after year and one time they win. They often win because they have the experience of entering the competition and these people see value in the learning that they gain by being part of the event. Arguably the same could be said of Ahuwhenua. Winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy is great, but surely the ultimate goal is delivering the best long term outcome for themselves and their people," he says.

Farm consultant and Te Awahohonu Trustee, Bob Cottrell, speaking at the time of the launch of the 2015 sheep and beef competition, says his Trust has benefited hugely from entering and then winning the BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award – sheep and beef in 2013.

Tarawera Station won the award that year, but it also entered another of its farms – Gwavas Station to get some outside advice and feedback on just how this operation was performing. Bob Cottrell has been involved as a consultant for many previous winners of the Ahuwhenua Trophy and says while winning is great, the real benefit comes from have top rural professionals do an audit of your farm. This he says means that you get an accurate and independent view of your performance. In the case of Tarawera, Bob Cottrell says the advice they got confirmed that the strategy that they were embarking upon – designating Tarawera as a 'breeding' property Gwavas as a 'finishing' property was correct.

He says as a Trustee he found the Ahuwhenua 'audit process' invaluable and would recommend that others enter the awards and gain this knowledge. Bob Cottrell says Tarawera Station entered the competition on a previous occasion and didn't win, but going through the process was invaluable and meant when they entered it for the second time they had the benefit of the previous audit. He says since winning the award in 2013, they have had a number of groups visit the station to learn more about their operations and he says they have also had some valuable feedback. While entering the competition does mean extra work for both staff and Trustees, Bob Cottrell says it's worth the effort and says the Ahuwhenua Trophy is an excellent vehicle for raising the profile of Māori agribusiness.

Ingrid Collins, Chair of Whangara Farms (formerly Pakarae A/Whangara B5 Partnership) and winner of the 2009 sheep and beef competition – commenting four years on says: "In 2009 Pakarae A/Whangara B5 Partnership achieved the Excellence in Māori Farming award the Ahuwhenua Trophy. Leveraging the strength of the whole team, from the Board of Governance to the General Manager and he in turn doing the same with his team is what carried this Partnership to the pinnacle of Māori farming. It was a challenge that arrived when we were ready for it. We have gone from strength to strength since then and now in 2014 we have become more than who we were before this result. I can say without a doubt, it lifted not only the image of Māori farming but the whole Tairawhiti region.

Thank you to all associated with the competition for giving us the opportunity to encourage other Māori farming entities to take a stand, build confidence and advance into the future with humility and pride of who we are."

Roku Mihinui, Chairman of the Kapenga M Trust which had also won the trophy twice – for sheep in 2003, and for dairy in 2012. "Winning was all about looking ahead. The biggest thing is to keep looking ahead; that you must refocus on the land and its potential. As a result, for example, Kapenga M Trust now had an intense and continuous environmental sustainability programme, and much of what we do we had learned from other participants."

Participating in Ahuwhenua had been a 'huge plus' for the Trust. To those who were contemplating entering the competition, Roku Mihinui's advice was simple – "go for it!"

Hemi Rau, Chairman, Otakanini Topu Incorporation, Finalist for the 2011 sheep & beef award says: "We received good feedback on both the strengths and weaknesses of our business from both the first and second round of judges. We used this to assist us in better focussing on moving our business at the next level. We have grown as people as a result of entering.

Questions from other farmers and trustees at the field day also made us think about some of the practices we had taken for granted. Attendance at the other two finalists field days gave us additional insights into options around running our own business. We have received great value from people we have met as a result of being in the competition. We had great support throughout the process."

Tamihana Nuku, Chairman, Te Awahohonu Forest Trust, winner of the 2013 sheep and beef competition commented that "we are already seeing more Māori entities lifting their performance due to attending finalists field days and Awards Dinners and being inspired to enter in the future with a hope of eventually taking away the Ahuwhenua Award for their owners.

The concentration of data gathered and exchanged, access to multi-skilled judges, interaction and tips from finalists and peers at all field days, unifying of governance and management equating to monitor farm and on-farm seminars are huge benefits of becoming a finalist and significantly outweigh costs involved in preparing for judging and staging a field day."

Dean and Kristen Nikora, owners of Cesped Lands Ltd and winners of the Ahuwhenua Trophy for dairy in 2008 commented: "In our minds the Ahuwhenua Trophy is undoubtedly the most prestigious trophy in New Zealand Agriculture, we entered to help us gauge where our strengths were and where we needed further focus for us to be able to move our business to the next level. The feedback from the judges was immeasurably valuable, especially in today's economic environment.

We have grown as people as a result of entering and have been humbled by the people we have met and the support they have offered us through the process. Having won the Ahuwhenua Trophy for dairy we have had an unbelievable amount of opportunity come our way and the future is bright and strong. I would encourage you to do this for you and your whānau."

Chris Scanlon, CEO of Atihau Whanaganui Incorporation and owner of Pah Hill Station (now Te Pa) and winner of the Ahuwhenua Trophy for sheep and beef farmers in 2007 – commenting at the time of the launch of the 2011 competition:

"The competition provided a great opportunity for us to identify what our business was about and how to improve it. Atihau are very humble people – but underneath there is great pride in our achievement. It has brought huge kudos to the iwi.

Winning the trophy was a lovely beacon of hope – it put some light on our pathway and helped us to see things better. It was a timely endorsement of all efforts made by our tipuna."

Dana Blackburn, Aitihau Whanganui Incorporation, winner 2007 of the sheep and beef award says: "The competition provides significant benefits to all including judging feedback, benchmarking, learning from fellow contestants, access to a range of supportive agribusiness sponsors and an oppportunity to share our experience for the benefit of others.

Back in 2003 when the competition was re-instated we entered a number of our properties in the sheep and beef competition. We did this for two reasons. Firstly to support the organisers in their initiative to re-establish this historic event and secondly to allow us to have an independent view of our individual farm businesses.

We entered again in 2007, this time just our Pah Hill Station property and we received good judges feedback on both the strengths and weaknesses of our business. This assisted us in better identifying future business goals and how to go about putting in place an approach to implement the goals. The feedback was strengthened by the BNZ Financial analysis & comparative data for other properties. Questions at the field day held on Pah Hill also made us think about some of the practices we had taken for granted and attendance at the field days of the other two finalists gave us additional insights.

Winning the award, along with the better profiling of our business within the wider agribusiness community has enhanced our business relationships. Winning the award also gave a big boost to shareholder interest and support for us in managing their investment. Also a boost to our staff not just those working on Pah Hill but all of those working for Atihau Whanganui Incorporation."